History of the Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge

Today the free use of bridges over the Ohio, Licking and Kentucky rivers is taken for granted by drivers, but in 1945 it was a major event. The history of the Maysville-Aberdeen bridge dates to the late 1920s when Maysville competed with Augusta as the site for the Ohio River bridge. Maysville was selected and on Nov. 8, 1930, contracts were awarded to the Dravco Construction Co. and John A. Roebling Sons Co. The suspension bridge would end up being 3,163 feet and 11 inches long, with the central span 1,060 feet long. Cost was about $1.6 million. The official opening of the bridge was set for Nov. 25, 1931, and, as was the custom at the time, caravans of auto club members from across the state traveled to Maysville for the event. Northern Kentucky, in particular, would be well represented with James Diskin leading the Campbell County motorists and William Ryerson and Covington Mayor Thomas Donnelly leading the Kenton County delegation. A Kentucky Times-Star account the week before said the bridge opening would be a holiday in Maysville. Lights were strung along the bridge and a grandstand constructed opposite Maysville's Third Street entrance to the bridge for the dedication ceremonies. Several thousand people attended the opening ceremonies. The ribbon-cutting ceremonies were followed by the unveiling of the bridge plaque by members of the Limestone Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The plaque dedicated the bridge as the Simon Kenton Bridge in honor of the pioneer, who spent some of his early years of exploration in the Mason County area. After the official opening the honored guests moved to the Hardyman Warehouse in Maysville for more speeches and music. To help pay for the bridge a toll would be levied, but as part of the celebration, the toll was not charged from the Wednesday morning opening until midnight on Sunday. A Kentucky Times-Star editorial on opening day termed the bridge a ''momentous event.'' The newspaper noted that the span gave Maysville a claim to be called a great gateway to the South and assured Maysville a place on the map.Among the guests at the bridge opening was 87-year-old Thomas Campbell, an attorney in Bainbridge, Ohio. A Kentucky Times-Star account said Campbell was there because his father had operated the first ferry between Maysville and Aberdeen, Ohio. With the opening of the bridge, the last ferry boats at Maysville were closing. The same account said among the early ferry customers were Kentuckians going to Aberdeen to be married by Thomas Shelton, who had earned the nickname the ''Marrying Squire.'' Other the years several others would operate ferries between Maysville and Aberdeen, including Mrs. Gordon Greene, a pioneer pilot among women on the Ohio River, who for a while was a partner with Capt. Charles Stadler in a Maysville ferry. In opening the bridge, the Times-Star said the state had bought out and closed both Stadler's ferry and another one The Simon Kenton Bridge would again make news on Aug. 1, 1945, when plans were announced to end the toll - on Oct. 1. As with the opening, ceremonies were planned to mark the event, with Maysville's Rotary and Lions clubs again in the forefront. The Maysville bridge was one of several in the state that became toll-free that year. A parade through Maysville's business district would kick off the end-of-toll ceremonies. Master of ceremonies was Joshua B. Everett of Maysville. At the time he was state director of welfare. After the ceremonies on the bridge, the dignitaries trekked to the Burley Warehouse on Kehoe Viaduct for further ceremonies. The honor of cutting the ceremonial ribbon went to 13-year-old Margaret Church, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Archibald Church. An account said Miss Church was selected because she was born the day the bridge opened. The ribbon used was part of the ribbon used in the opening ceremonies in 1931. The ribbon was cut at 3:30 p.m. and Gov. Willis' car with Kentucky and Ohio dignitaries was driven across to the Aberdeen side and then back again. At that point the bridge was open to all traffic without a toll. A Kentucky Post account estimated 10,000 people attended the ceremonies.

This historical account was originally published in the Kentucky Post

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